Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Corky Corcoran And His Orchestra (1945)

Corky Corcoran
Corky Corcoran (1924 - 1979) was a notable but today almost forgotten tenor saxophone player, who started his career during the big band era of the 1940s. He was discovered by Jimmie Lunceford when he was only 16 years old while playing at a jam session in his hometown of Tacoma, WA. In the early 1940s he was already working in big bands. He first played professionally in 1940 with Sonny Dunham, then joined Harry James' orchestra from 1941 to 1947.
Harry James
Corcoran left James for a short time in 1948 playing with his own ensemble and working briefly in Tommy Dorsey's band before rejoining James in 1949. He continued to work with James on and off almost up till his death of a throat cancer in October 1979.
Record producer Harry Lim
Corcoran was featured with Harry James on stage, in radio live broadcasts and movie appearances and further participated in a considerable number of recordings with James' orchestra. However, he also made some recordings under his own name during his career, here I'll focus on a 1945 session made for Keynote records produced by Harry Lim

Info from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography (version 9.0) (click to enlarge)
The session for Keynote took place in Los Angeles on May 15, 1945 and had Corcoran on tenor sax recorded in a septet setting featuring Emmett Berry (tp), Willie Smith (as), Dodo Marmarosa (p), Allan Reuss (g), Ed Mihelich (b) and Nick Fatool (d). Four titles were chosen and first tune recorded was the ensemble's version of Cole Porter's What Is This Thing Called Love?

Emmett Berry
Emmett Berry is the featured trumpeter in the session and has a short solo statement in What Is This Thing Called Love?, a great ballad to showcase Corcoran's mature and warm tenor sax. Next title recorded was Minor Blues which has great solo spots by both Willie Smith's alto sax, Berry's trumpet besides Corcoran's relaxed tenor solo. Allan Reuss' guitar introduces and ends this arrangement of Minor Blues 

Willie Smith, alto sax

Allan Reuss
Two takes of You Know It, a Corcoran original, were recorded and have great solo work by both the horns and Allan Reuss' guitar. Only the second take (HL 96-5) issued on Keynote K-654 and Mercury 1097 is available here

Dodo Marmarosa
The session ends with a recording of Lullaby of the Leaves, another ballad leaving Corcoran space to play a relaxed and warm Hawkins-like tenor solo, Dodo Marmarosa and Berry also have short solo statements and again Allan Reuss' guitar plays the intro

This session by Corky Corcoran for Harry Lim's Keynote has been reissued a few  years ago at the 11 CD box-set of the collected Keynote jazz recordings 1941 - 1947 (disc 6) (Fresh Sound Records).  However, the box-set does not include alternate takes of recorded tunes. Thus, if the alternate take of You Know It from the Corky Corcoran May 15, 1945 session is needed, you have to look for the two cd-set of Keynote reissues shown below
The Essential Keynote Collection, Vol. 4

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spreadin' Rhythm Around - Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Feat. Hilary Alexander

CD front, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records, 004) (2017)
Swing jazz music emerged in the USA during the 1930s with the rise of big bands and the spread of radio networks broadcasting live music. Swing jazz was at its peak from late 1930s trough the WW 2 years in the 1940s supporting an ever-increasing need for entertainment and dance music at a difficult time. The popular swing orchestras of the period were presented by their leaders such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Charlie Barnet a.o.. Both the full orchestras and the smaller ensembles drawn from the big bands had success with the public through records and live performance. Today, this stage in jazz music is mostly neglected, but fortunately there are exceptions. A revival of the interest in swing music emerged in the last decades of the 20th Century, especially among serious dancers searching for appropriate music to support the various dance styles - suddenly it became hip among a young generation of dancers to work out the steps of Jitterbug i.e., a dance style first made popular during the WW 2 period. The need for accompanying music led to the formation of organized ensembles that resumed the music of the original swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. An excellent example of such an ensemble is represented by Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five in focus here.
Jonathan Stout and The Campus Five feat. Hilary Alexander (promo photo by Monchette Gonda)
Bandleader Jonathan Stout is the guitarist of the Campus Five. As a guitarist he has specialized in pre-bebop jazz guitar drawing inspiration from the varied styles of jazz guitarists such as Freddie Green (of the Count Basie orchestra), Charlie Christian, Allan Reuss, Django Reinhardt a.o.. Jonathan Stout also writes a noted blog on swing guitar, accessible at the website of the Campus Five, here.  Like co-bandleader Hilary Alexander, the vocalist of the Campus Five, Jonathan Stout is an experienced dancer with a deep understanding of the interaction between Swing music and dance. The arrangements and choice of material for the performance by the Campus Five further reflect the band's and it leader's serious involvement with the original sources of the Swing music idiom.

This version of Honeysuckle Rose is inspired by the Count Basie orchestra's 1937 recorded version for Decca and is featured as the first track of the latest CD by Jonathan Stout and his Campus five, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records 004) released in June this year. The CD is the fourth by the orchestra and contains 15 tracks of danceable swing jazz drawn from the original sources as well as presenting a couple of new compositions by Jonathan Stout. Besides Jonathan Stout (g) and Hilary Alexander (voc) the Campus Five include Albert Alva (ts,cl), Jim Ziegler (tp,voc), Christopher Dawson (p), Wally Hersom (b) and Josh Collazo (d) and there are a couple of guest performances by Brian Shaw (tp) and Marquis Howell II (b). 
Photo collage copied from
The repertoire of the disc include well known standards like Cheek to Cheek, Limehouse Blues, Sunday, Rose Room, Undecided and the Billie Holiday hits Miss Brown To You and the title track of the CD, Spreadin' Rhythm Around. Also featured are lesser known tunes like Sir Charles Thompson's Tunis In, Just About Right For Me (- originally recorded c.1945 by vocalist Kay Starr and The Lamplighter All Stars), You've Got Me Woodoo'd (- a 1938 hit for Louis Armstrong, also recorded by Charlie Barnet a.o.), Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me (- swing versions recorded by Gene Krupa, Peanuts Hucko and Sidney Bechet 1950-51) and Sweets, a composition by Count Basie and Harry 'Sweets' Edison originally recorded by The Red Callender Six in 1945 and the Count Basie Octet in 1950. There are further two compositions by Jonathan Stout, the instrumentals Mill House Stomp and Dance of The Lindy Blossoms, both fitting perfectly in and supporting the swing feeling of the disc. My overall impression is that the music is performed with due respect to the sources without actually copying the original recordings but rather carrying on the spirit of the music in a much enjoyable way directed both at a dancing audience and the engaged listener, who are rewarded with all killers and no fillers to quote an old marketing blurb. - From You Tube uploaded live performances by the Campus Five I'll insert a couple more examples of music featured at the CD, which is available for purchase and listening in streaming audio like the previous three outputs at the band's Bandcamp website, here -  Here is first Hilary Alexander's vocal featured in Just About Right For Me

Next, here is a live performance of Jonathan Stout's Mill House Stomp

To end this small presentation of Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander, here is the band's version of Rose Room, heavily inspired by the 1939 recording of the tune by the Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian  - enjoy!


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Friday, August 4, 2017